Special Education Legal Alliance
A legal case involving a Solana Beach School District special education preschool student, begun in August 2010, is now with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case is being handled by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz lawyer Dan Shinoff.
The case has been paid in large part by the Special Education Legal Alliance, formed seven or eight years ago to support potentially precedent-setting cases where the outcome could impact other districts and other cases, said SBSD superintendent Leslie Fausset.
“What happens in so many of these cases is that even if you are right, you have a tendency to settle because it’s often less expensive to settle than it is to go through the full court process,” Fausset said.
She said there is a tendency for districts to settle even when they may not agree because “it is expeditious to do so financially for the district.”
The purpose of the alliance, she said, was for school districts to contribute to a fund to provide resources that would support districts “when they were in the midst of a case that potentially was precedent-setting.”
“Laws get written, and there’s a lot of interpretation with any written law,” Fausset said. “When you settle, you don’t have the opportunity of getting full, clear definition of the intent of the law.”
The Special Education Legal Alliance provides a way for districts to pursue a case through the courts to receive more comprehensive interpretation of the law. “The lack of definition is not helpful,” she said.
The alliance is county-run, Fausset said, and is voluntary for districts. She said her district makes an annual contribution of about $.50 per student, for a projected cost for 2011-2012 of approximately $1,418.50.
“I’ve been very supportive of it,” Fausset said of the legal alliance.
The case to date has cost about $51,650 — about $11,600 from the district and about $40,000 from the legal alliance.